I’ve reached the second last post of this blog series, with the final one being posted tomorrow. There I will highlight again my reason for voting yes, but also how these amazing LGBTI characters, and shows have made a huge impact on my vote. This blog is looking at two shows that have been loved by me, fans and critics alike; Orange is the New Black and Faking It.
*You know spoilers for the below shows if you haven’t seen them yet but you really should!*
Orange is the New Black
I’ve discussed my love for this dramedy before and if you haven’t seen yet, I recommend you do as soon as possible. Orange is the New Black is funny and as it is heart warming, but at the same time it doesn’t stay away from the harsh realities. When it comes to LGBT representation it brings it in every sense from race to sexuality, the sexist treatment women can receive in prison, but most importantly that despite the unique, and varied groups of women in prison, they are just people at the core. I could focus on the many relationships between the amazing women in Litchfield prison, which I may have gotten too emotional about, but instead I want to talk about Sophia Burset. Sophia is played by Laverne Cox, who is so amazing in her own right, that I need to dedicate a whole post to her alone. On first introduction she comes across as the sassy hairdresser, who is probably one of the few voices of reason on the show, but we soon realise the discrimination she faces for being transgender.
She is denied medication because of prison cuts and in a desperate attempt to visit a hospital, she swallows a a broken ornament. In another attempt to get the hormone treatment she needs for her transition, she befriends Sister Ingalls to get access her to her menopause medication. Sister Ingalls calls her out on this, but as a result the two become very close friends and Ingalls becomes a vital support system for when Sophia tries to reconnect with her son, and support her wife, Crystal, in pursuing another relationship with another man. Her back-story is moving too and shows how desperate she was by acting out credit card fraud to fund her transition and how difficult that had been for her wife and son. So much so that it led to her son making the call that eventually landed her in prison.
Like Girls, Orange is the New Black doesn’t hold back on the sex scenes in the show, even though it’s something that shocks Piper (who is the main character but also the eyes of the audience). But it emphasises from the beginning that the relationships that occur are complex, moving and sometimes far from perfect. There’s Morello and Nicky, Piper and Alex (a toxic relationship but I will admit the chemistry and sexual attraction between these two characters makes it very addictive to watch), Tricia and Mercy (which I spoke about before), and Taystee and Poussey (complicated friendship given Poussey as feelings for Taystee but Taystee is straight).
In Poussey’s flashback it was revealed that she had a past relationship with Franziska, which unfortunately ended in heartbreak. All of these characters have faced heartache because of these relationships but also discrimination for being in these relationships in the first place, even within the prison walls itself. Orange is the New Black is a show that is making waves when it comes to LGBT representation, by exploring the complex and emotional depths of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women on the show. I think the episode that focused so beautifully on this was the Valentine’s episode. It highlighted so beautifully what is really at the core of all of these women’s hopes, dreams and pursuit of many relationships, and that one thing is love. Pure and simple. No “lesbian agenda”, just to be treated with respect and to be loved.
Faking It is one of those shows which you think initially is ridiculous, but once you start watching it, you can’t stop. It’s a must watch not just for teenagers, but for anyone who is looking for a funny, sweet, coming age of comedy. Faking It began the series with the two main characters Karma and Amy, who were “faking” a lesbian relationship, so they could become more popular at school. But from this fake relationship, Amy soon discovers that she has feelings for Karma and women in general. Thus began a struggle for Amy, who tried to keep up the pretence of being in a fake relationship with Karma, whilst her feelings grew in the process. Of course Karma is completely unaware of this, and instead made it her mission to chase the most popular boy in school Liam, much to Amy’s heartbreak. Karma finally becomes aware that Amy’s feelings for her are not fake and as a result their friendship/relationship becomes a little more complicated. It becomes even more complicated when both girls lose their virginity to Liam (separately…but there was the poor/hot attempt at a threesome), something Karma only discovers at the end of season 2.
I like how the show doesn’t specifically identify the sexual orientations of Amy and Karma. Even if Amy does pursue two relationships with women (one “fake”, one real), she still shows an attraction towards boys, and she even expresses to Karma that she isn’t exactly sure what her sexual orientation is, and that’s ok. Even if Karma identifies as straight (fans argue otherwise), there was still the shocker that occurred at the end of season, where she had a vivid, fantasy dream with Amy. This sex dream emphasised that nothing is set in stone when it comes to the sexual orientation of these two girls on the show. I think this is important, because in a society that encourages each one of us to constantly place labels on one another, it emphasises that nothing in life is ever that simple, especially when it comes to young teen girls, who are discovering themselves, and their own sexuality at the same time.
I mean look at Girls and Orange is The New Black. Two shows that despite the sexual orientation labels that are constantly enforced on the characters, nothing is ever truly black and white. I think shows like Faking It (despite criticism they have received for it) are doing good job showing how complicated it can be for a teen to discover their own sexual orientation in a society that often discriminates those for simply being different. (Amy even faced discrimination from her own mother, Farrah, who at one point says “If you could be with a boy, why wouldn’y you? It’d be so much easier”, to which Amy aptly replies it would be easier for her mother, but not for her. But by the end of season 2 is Amy’s mum is more accepting of her daughter’s sexual orientation, even inviting her girlfriend Reagan around for dinner.
From the get go this show was pulling no punches, this wasn’t a simple teen rom-com drama. This was a show that was exploring sexuality, sexual identity and what it was really like to be a teen in the 2010s. I also love how the show turned the tables regarding popularity and cliques. Characters such as Lauren who at the beginning seem bigoted and homophobic (she really isn’t) is actually the least popular person at school, while openly gay Shane is the most liked by his school peers on the show. But if he were on another show, he would probably be like Kurt on Glee. It also comments on this “new” idea of popularity and how sometimes in our efforts to stand out and be unique, we forget the fact that we really aren’t that different in the first place. I also love the friendship between Liam and Shane, how supportive the two of them are to each other despite their sexual preferences.
But I think what the show deserves the most applause for, is how they delicately dealt with the topic of intersex people through the character of Lauren. Lauren is a character who I did not like initially, but she has quickly become a favourite character of mine. It is revealed at the beginning of the second season that Lauren is intersex and how it is something that she keeps secret and struggles with, and also an explanation for her need to be liked and popular in the first season. The show addresses straightaway the differences between transgender and intersex, and how Lauren has faced her own form of discrimination because of this.
Lauren was dumped by her boyfriend when she revealed to him that she is intersex. Her own father most definitely treats her differently for being intersex, by overcompensating her own femininity and making her compete in many beauty contests as a result. But by the end of the series, Lauren owns the fact that she is intersex and uses this as a way of finally, gaining the popularity she so desperately desired. This is a progressive show and I know it has faults. But for something with such a young following, it is educating and helping teens who are coming out for the first time through humour, with touching stories about love, growing up and most importantly, everything in between.
So that’s the second last post, stay tuned for the final post in the LGBTI representation blog series.